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Cross Canada Vanlife Expedition

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Aug. 28, 2019

Picture 1: Peyto Lake from Bow Summit. #nofilter

One month and 5000 miles after we embarked on our #vanlife adventure, we crossed Canada from Vancouver to Quebec City, and returned to the US via Ambassador Bridge straddling the Detroit River. We drove Curiosity across the longest highway in the world -- Trans Canada Highway, visited spectacular Banff, Jasper, Calgary, Montreal, and Niagara Falls. We went from sea level to ~6800 ft at the Bow Summit on the Southern portion of the Columbia Icefields Parkway. Bow Summit is the highest point on the drive from Banff to Jasper and is the highest elevation crossed by a public road in Canada.

We stayed with friends 40% of the time and conducted our business as needed. We actually generated decent income through consulting and training we conducted while on the road and in a 10-day engagement in Montreal. Finding good speed with our free T-Mobile data roaming wasn't as hard as we thought. As long as we are near a sizable town or city we had strong signal. Most of the fast food restaurants in Canada provided free Wi-fi, among them we like Tim Horton and A&W for reliable internet access and decent menu.

Picture 2: Taking a conference call with the team.

We booked RV campgrounds with full hookups for much of Banff-Jasper segment but we also dry camped (no hookups), stealth camped in Vancouver and overnighted at a Sudbury Walmart parking lot all without reservation ahead of time. After Alberta we didn't book any sites so we usually don't know where we would spend the night until mid afternoon when we start looking at two trusted iPhone apps, AllStays or iOverlander for some ideas.

Vancouver was the first night and we drove around a neighborhood near the airport that we are familiar with from a previous hotel stay and managed to find street parking that had no overnight restriction. However, we were quite nervous because we have never done it before and I kept imagining a knock in the middle of the night. Thankfully we had really good blackout curtains so no one outside could see us or any light from the inside. We managed to enjoy hot showers and bathroom facility outside of Curiosity so that we didn't have to deal with cleaning up. If you really want to know, we made use of a portable/travel urinal for the occasions when we didn't want to leave the van.

We quickly settled into a routine of taking turns to drive, cook and clean up. We used the propane grill twice. Otherwise we mainly used our induction stove and microwave in food prep. Fresh corn and summer fruit were wonderful seasonal additions to our diet. We rarely ate out but would hit Starbucks regularly to spend the gift cards our Seattle friends sent us off with and use Wi-fi and bathrooms. The Sprinter van performed flawlessly. We averaged 17-19 MPG depending on load (water) and elevation. All the equipment in Curiosity worked well except a minor issue of a failed fan thermostat. Since we use the sink for dishes and washing up we have grey water to dump from time to time.

Picture 3: A room with a view that can be changed anytime.

We continue to adapt as we go, developing dish washing routine to minimize accumulation in our grey water tank. The only thing we didn't like was the mosquito and not having proper screens made the situation worse. All because we were holding out for the BEST RV screen that can only be installed in Montreal. We were so pleased with the work has done to customize and install screens for the back and side doors of Curiosity. They have this unique magnetic mechanism that seal automatically to keep the bugs out.

We simply moved from place to place each night and spent most of the day driving such that I didn't get to read as much as I had planned. However, we did consume a lot of podcasts and I got to finish my writing commitments for the next book we are publishing in the fall.

One area where we didn't hit our goal is to exercise regularly. Outside of hiking during the Banff segment we were on the road, visiting friends in the cities. It was difficult to establish a routine without a regular gym. Though I biked and kayaked in Montreal with my friend's equipment and hit a YMCA one night in Ontario we really missed our training regiment.

We also discovered that truck stops what we always pass by on interstates are actually great places to spend the night. They have hot showers, 24 hour store, restaurant and best of all, bathrooms. The parking lot is well lit and flat so we quickly finding ourselves joining the legions in the long haul community. In one stop we were surprised to find a mobile chapel where you can go into a converted trailer to pray and participate in a worship service on Sundays -- in either English, French, or Spanish!

It's fun meeting people on the road and hear their stories. We've met interesting people from all kinds of places and nations; driving in all kinds of vehicles in pursuit of different dreams. We got a lot of curious people who want to peek into our van and inquire about our new lifestyle.

Picture 4: At a Canadian truck stop

This has been a great experience and not far from our expectations. We anticipated the challenge of cabin fever and tried to make sure we have space and time away from each other. We share the work of vanlife but also make sure we have time to do our own work. We also know that we won't be living full time in the van so this idea of having a base and taking the van out for 2 months at a time each quarter becomes the blueprint for the coming year.

What is next for Curiosity? we plan to spend the month of Sept in the Seattle area, then head South in October. We have a speaking engagement in the Bay Area 10/19-20 and hoping to help my mom renovate her condo in San Jose while we are there. Then we hope to visit a few national parks in the Southwest on our way to LA to spend Thanksgiving with our boys.

Please follow our adventures on Rossana‘s Facebook or my Instagram @unceasingwonder.

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